Free Software Foundation Targets Cisco With Suit

The Free Software Foundation (FSF), the group behind the popular GPL open source
license, has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Cisco and wants an injunction
against the company.

The suit, filed in a federal court in New York today, alleges that Cisco’s Linksys
consumer network equipment divisions violated the license terms of programs on which the
FSF is the copyright holder.

Since at least May 12, 2006, Cisco has distributed to the public copies of firmware
containing the FSF’s programs in its products “without providing complete and
corresponding source code or an offer for source code as required by the Licenses,” the
complaint charged. It listed 13 Linksys products as offenders, including its popular
wireless routers for setting up Wi-Fi networks.

The FSF complaint is asking the district court to issue an injunction that
would keep Cisco from distributing the products with the alleged software violations, and
for damages that would be decided by a jury. In addition, it is asking the court to make
Cisco turn over any profits from the products covered by the software dispute.

Brett Smith, licensing compliance engineer at the FSF, said the FSF wants Cisco to
comply with all relevant free software licenses in all their products. In addition, it
asks that Cisco appoint a Free Software Compliance Officer responsible for ensuring
Cisco’s compliance with these licenses going forward.

In a statement, Cisco said it was disappointed by the lawsuit, saying it takes its
open source software obligations and responsibilities seriously. “We are currently
reviewing the issues raised in the suit but believe we are substantially in compliance.
We have always worked very closely with the FSF and hope to reach a resolution agreeable
to the company and the foundation.”

Cisco and the FSF have been working together since 2003 to ensure licensing
compliance, according to the FSF.

The Linksys History

Cisco acquired
Linksys
in 2003 for $500 million and with it inherited an open source problem in the

Linksys WRT54G
wireless “G” network router.

The issue was that the Linksys device used open source software but that Cisco did not
make that same software freely available to end users, as required under the terms of
open source licenses used by the underlying software.

“It’s not difficult to find ‘source code’ on the Linksys site,” according to a
background document describing the suit written by the FSF’s Smith. “But you only have to
dig a little deeper to find the problems. Those source code downloads are often
incomplete or out-of-date. Cisco also provides written offers for source, but we
regularly hear about requests going unfulfilled.”

In an e-mailed statement to InternetNews.com, Smith said Cisco made clear that
it had no intention of fulfilling FSF’s settlement requests. For example, one demand by
the FSF was for Cisco to contact previous customers to inform them about license
violations and offer them updated, complete source code. It didn’t happen.

“We also have serious reservations about their ability to ensure that they comply with
relevant free software licenses in the future,” Smith noted. “Addressing these issues is
every bit as important as fixing the existing violations, but in our discussions Cisco
seemed uninterested in doing so.”

Aside from its Linksys division, Cisco is one of the
leading contributors
to the Linux kernel. Cisco also is holding a
$100,000 contest
for Linux developers and uses the open source operating system with
its AXP router
module
as well.

Representing the FSF is the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), a group with a winning
record of lawsuits against alleged open source license violators. In March of 2008 the

SFLC settled
with a supplier to Verizon, bringing the SFLC’s record of winning its
actions to four out of four on
GPL
lawsuits.

Article courtesy of InternetNews.com

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